Flexing wings and more reliability woes (Red Bull race review) (Video)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Hockenheimring, 2010

As at Silverstone, Red Bull’s front wings were the centre of attention before the race at Hockenheim – but for a very different reason.

The new front wings were observed to be flexing at high speeds, allowing parts of the wing to move closer to the ground and operate more efficiently.

Sebastian Vettel Mark Webber
Qualifying position 1 4
Qualifying time comparison (Q3) 1’13.791 (-0.556) 1’14.347
Race position 3 6
Average race lap 1’18.567 (-0.574) 1’19.141
Laps 67/67 67/67
Pit stops 1 1

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Sebastian Vettel

Started from his sixth pole position of the season and third in a row. But, just like at Silverstone, he didn’t so much as lead a lap of the race.

Vettel got away slowly and darted right in a fruitless attempt to keep Fernando Alonso behind, which ended up letting Felipe Massa through as well.

With the front runners setting a fast pace his team were able to bring him in early in an attempt to get past Alonso. But it didn’t work, and Vettel was seldom close to the Ferraris from that moment on.

Compare Sebastian Vettel’s form against his team mate in 2010

Mark Webber

The movement of Red Bull’s much-discussed ‘flexi-wing’ was clear to see on their cars during the race – and Vettel’s at Silverstone. The same movement was not apparent at Valencia.

Watch how the top of the endplates on Webber’s front wing slowly dip as he builds up speed on the straight, then quickly rise as he begins to decelerate:

The FIA tests wings to ensure they do not deflect excessively and had Red Bull’s wings not complied with those tests then they wouldn’t have been allowed to race them. The same goes for Ferrari who had a similar wing, though the degree of deflection was harder to spot on video.

In other words, the wings are legal to the letter of the law and if the FIA wishes to ban them it’ll have to change its rules to do so. In the meantime expect other teams to show up with their versions of the wing very soon.

If the flexi-wing shows one of Red Bull’s characteristics this year – aggressive development in the pursuit of better performance – Weber’s race was spoiled by their other defining trait: unreliability.

Webber was told by the team to leave a four-second gap to Jenson Button, who he was chasing, in order to keep his oil temperatures down.

He had led Button before the pit stops but lost time behind Nico Rosberg, allowing Button to get ahead of him.

Webber ended the race in sixth and the two Red Bull drivers are now level on championship points.

Compare Mark Webber’s form against his team mate in 2010

2010 German Grand Prix

Browse all 2010 German Grand Prix articles

Image (C) Red Bull/Getty images

66 comments on “Flexing wings and more reliability woes (Red Bull race review) (Video)”

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  1. The wing-dip works by creating ground-effect—it adds a diffuser-like effect to the wing—and possible also by changing the angle of attack on the winglets.

    Bernards’ photos tell it all. You can see that there are two cables, with one going to the little endplate-mounted winglet we see flexing in the video and the other to the endplate. This tells me that they are getting an angle of attack benefit from that winglet because there is no ground effect working there, and probably reaping some ground-effect as well.

    It’s weird that McLaren didn’t note this until last weekend. I also note that McLaren, post spy-gate, is not playing hardball on these things. For example they were all over Ferrari about the flexi floor and their little front wing separation device Ferrari also had banned. Now they are all, “hey Stefano we read in a French paper about your illegal wings, you sly dog!”

    I’m not so keen to dismiss the Silverstone theory. I imagine that iwth the Abbey bump, the massive increase in downforce generated by that corner with the wing deflection, took the nose-mounts out of their spec. Newey does not make cars more robust than necessary.

    1. You might be right on the ground effect making it possible. Or maybe what Paul A writes down is how they do it.

      And as for McLaren, it seems they were never planning to protest, just do as they did with their planned ride height system, i.e. clear what the FIA will allow for and go on to make it work on their car (http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/85576)

  2. Just getting back to the title of this article (Flexing wings), the rule book has a number of entries that help define the design characteristics of the front wing; they are all applicable when the car is sitting still, and only one is truly applicable to flexing. It says:
    “3.17.1 Bodywork may deflect no more than 10mm vertically when a 500N load is applied vertically to it 800mm forward of the front wheel centre line and 795mm from the car centre line. The load will be applied in a downward direction … ”
    It is fairly obvious that the stewards have found that the wings comply (reported widely in the press) so the two questions that remain are (a) is photo or video evidence reliable compared to the official test? and (b) what are the loads involved?
    I would point out that 3.17.1 is a static test but the wings are working in a dynamic environment where there will be an increasingly positive downforce effect when using the 10mm to best advantage. The visual effect is going to be complicated by the fact that under 4 or 5g braking the front of the car will dip, maybe up to the limit of suspension travel plus a decrease in tyre radius. But far more important is whether or not at speeds approaching 300kph the downforce could exceed 500 newtons (approx kilos.) From a fluid dynamics point of view this is quite possible, if not probable – and if this is the case, then the flexing could legally exceed 10mm.
    This is just another case of writing too many rules in a too detailed manner – all the teams look for loopholes – and until the FIA radically simplify the rulebook it does not stand any chance of trying to introduce a sportsmanlike “spirit of the rules” approach compared to “the letter of the law.”

  3. We also don’t know how the weight is applied. The rules state a 50mm ram is applied downward, with some kind of 300mmx150mm adapter if necessary. Where is the ram hitting the wing? Anyway, it seems possible that you could have the top of the winglet resist the ram completely but have the bottom area of the endplate flex as much as you please.

    Alternatively, I think you are right in suggesting that if you actually use up all of the 10mm allowance, you may be able to then tip the wing into a ground-effect situation where it gets pulled down ever harder the lower it goes. Those end plates are now really mini-diffusers anyway with their cups and strakes.

    In any event, I’d like to hear a good explanation of why RBR was testing the deflection of wings with those wires when the test for legality is the one the FIA spells out.

  4. Just an observation here ,: the wing is supposed to deflect upwards while the car accelerates , but the RBR car actually decreases under braking . this theory is applicable even in road cars where when you stamp on the throttle the car front of the car seems to rise and jerks you backwards and if you stamp on the brakes the front decreases forcing you forwards . The redbull front end does not follow this simple principle and that makes it weird

  5. Skilled engineers can design the wing to deflect by < 10mm (for example 10.48mm if you round) to comply with regulations. The trick is allowing the wing to deflect more (i.e. irregularly) past the threshold point which implies they have internal composites stressing to exactly the right levels to stoop and pick up ground effects.

    Imagine a piece of paper skimming across a smooth desk – that is a perfect example of ground effect. It both causes the car to 'float' and 'glues' it at the same height all at once. The board under the car is meant to prevent this, but looks like they've figured a way around that one with other aero updates.

    Well done RBR, can't wait till McLaren do similar and run away with both championships.

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